3 simple steps to eating more healthy food
Good nutrition is the cornerstone of good health. Without it, all of your other efforts to become or stay healthy really are pretty worthless. For example, you can exercise every single day, but if you follow it up with a fast food meal and sugary dessert, guess what…you’re going to gain weight and develop blood sugar problems, despite your habit of regular exercise.
When I utter the words “improve your diet” to my patients, understandably, many of them grumble a little bit. They think dietary changes are difficult and expensive. But they definitely don’t have to be!
Eating more nutritiously is not about depriving yourself of your favorite foods, or spending a ton of money on exotic ingredients for hard-to-follow recipes. You can significantly improve your diet just by making simple, inexpensive, minor changes and additions to your existing routine. It really is as easy as that!
Here are a few things you can incorporate right now…
Planning Makes All the Difference
Planning ahead of your grocery store excursions can make a world of difference in how you eat.
First and foremost, preparing a grocery list is crucial. Walking around a grocery store aimlessly is a recipe for nutritional disaster. That’s how most people end up with carts full of unhealthy, prepackaged TV dinners and sugary snacks like cookies, pies, ice cream, and chips. But having a well-organized list will not only get you in and out of the store faster, it keeps you focused. Just go in with the goal of not deviating from your list, and stick to that goal!
On a similar note, don’t be afraid to make your life a little easier by taking “shortcuts,” if necessary. By this, I mean buy the pre-cut or already spiralized vegetables if you don’t have the time or desire to cut or spiralize them yourself at home, or if you have a condition like arthritis that makes slicing and chopping difficult. The added convenience may cost you a couple extra dollars, but it may be worth it depending on your circumstances.
Also, if you find that you throw away a lot of your produce because it goes bad before you have a chance to eat it all, then buy frozen, organic varieties. There’s no shame in that—especially considering frozen produce is just as nutritious as its fresh counterpart.
Never shop hungry
Second, make sure you do your grocery shopping with a fully belly. I’m not kidding! I suggest going after you eat a hearty and healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Think about it: How many times have you gone grocery shopping while hungry, only to fill your cart with snack foods and unhealthful treats that you normally wouldn’t buy? (And then maybe even eat them on your drive home!) But having a full stomach can keep you focused, on task, and help you resist these temptations much more easily.
Finally, once you have all that food stocked away in your fridge and pantry, I suggest using a few hours either every Saturday or Sunday to prepare several of your meals for the week in advance.
For example, bake a couple dozen egg-and-vegetable muffin cups for quick and tasty breakfasts-on-the-go. Put together your lunches in Bento boxes and store them in your refrigerator. And combine ingredients for slow cooker or Instant Pot recipes in zipper-lock bags to eliminate prep time during weeknight dinners. Having as much of your weekly menu prepped or completed before the week even starts prevents spontaneous eating out or take-out orders—both of which can really pack on the pounds if done too often.
Make Simple & Healthy Substitutions
I tell my patients all the time—cooking your own meals will almost always be healthier than eating out at a restaurant. But what if your recipes aren’t necessarily the most nutritious to start?
Well, fortunately, there are healthier substitutions for just about every food under the sun. A Google search will bring up countless results. Here are just some examples of delicious substitutions you can make in your cooking, baking, and overall diet that don’t take away flavor or enjoyment of food:
|Refined white flour||Whole wheat flour, almond flour, brown rice flour|
|Sugar||Xylitol, stevia, erythritol|
|White rice||Brown rice or quinoa|
|Spaghetti/pasta||100% whole wheat varieties, or spiralized veggies like squash or zucchini|
|Sweetened chocolate chips||Unsweetened cacao nibs|
|Heavy cream||Coconut milk|
|Standard (high sodium) soy sauce||Coconut aminos or liquid aminos|
|Iceberg lettuce||Spinach, watercress, arugula, kale|
|Pre-bottled salad dressing||Extra virgin olive oil + balsamic vinegar or make your own dressing using olive oil as the base|
Also, one of the easiest ways to add nutritional punch to any dish is to simply add more vegetables. For instance, if you’re making a homemade pizza, top it with spinach, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and any other vegetable you enjoy—the more, the better. Veggies can almost always be added into other dishes too, even if you have to steam and puree them first before blending them in. (I know a lot of parents do this when they cook for their kids, and it’s really a great idea!)
As you can see, better nutrition is not some lofty, unattainable goal. Making just a few simple changes, like the ones I mentioned here, are really all you need to get started on the path toward more vibrant health.